Trudeau Warns United States of Restricting Trade in Essential Products in Canada

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Canadian and American flags fly near the Ambassador Bridge in Windsor, Ontario on March 21, 2020.

Rob Gurdebeke / The Canadian Press

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has sent a warning to the Trump administration to keep the Canada-US border open to trade in essentials after medical manufacturer 3M said it was forced to stop exporting N95 masks.

Trudeau said at a press conference on Friday that blocking trade with Canada could backfire and “end up hurting the Americans as much as hurting anyone.”

“The level of integration between our economies crosses both sides of the border. We receive essential supplies from the United States, but the United States also receives essential supplies and commodities – and, in fact, health care professionals – from Canada every day, “he said. “It would be a mistake to create blockages or reduce the volume of trade in essential goods and services, including medical products, across our border.”

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Trudeau said Canadian officials have been in direct contact with U.S. officials to highlight the need for collaboration to obtain the necessary medical supplies. He hadn’t spoken to US President Donald Trump before his press conference.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford added his voice to Twitter, saying he raised the issue in a phone call with US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.

“The health and well-being of our front line workers depends on these essential medical items and now more than ever our countries must work together to combat COVID-19,” he said.

Trump said on Thursday evening on Twitter that his administration “hit 3M hard today after seeing what they were doing with their masks.”

In a statement released Friday morning, 3M said the U.S. government had used the Defense Production Act to force the company to prioritize orders for N95 respirators from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

“The Administration also asked 3M to stop exporting the respirators we currently manufacture in the United States to the Canadian and Latin American markets. However, the cessation of supplies of respirators to healthcare workers in Canada and Latin America, where we are a key supplier of respirators, has important humanitarian implications, “said the statement from 3M.

The company then warned that the measure could backfire due to potential reprisals from other countries.

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“If that were to happen, the net number of respirators available to the United States would actually decrease. It is the opposite of what we and the administration, on behalf of the American people, are both looking for, “the company said.

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland has carefully followed up on the question of retaliatory measures, but has insisted that the government is again ready to respond to the American measures.

“I want to assure Canadians that our government – as our action has demonstrated – is ready to do whatever it takes to defend the national interest. We have shown that during the NAFTA negotiations and of course, this is the approach we continue to take in this fight against the coronavirus, “she said.

She said she stressed with Ambassador Lighthizer on Thursday that many Canadian nurses and doctors work in American facilities. She added that the government continues to try to secure 3M’s face masks.

“We are working very hard to get these shipments from 3M and we are also working very, very hard with a variety of suppliers around the world,” she said.

The dispute arose when Canada announced that it had ratified the new NAFTA agreement with the United States and Mexico.

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“This is an important step towards the implementation of this essential trade agreement,” said Freeland in a statement. “The Canadian government will continue to work with the United States and Mexican governments to determine a mutually beneficial effective date. . We want to make sure that the new NAFTA will support a strong economic recovery once we put the COVID-19 pandemic behind us – which we will do. “

Trudeau announced at a press conference on Friday that his government has hired Amazon Canada to use its vast network to distribute medical equipment to provinces “where we need it most.” He said the equipment includes masks, gowns, face shields, ventilators and other materials used by health care workers.

In addition, Trudeau said the government will spend $ 100 million in additional funding for food banks and other organizations working to help vulnerable Canadians.

In a statement, the Prime Minister’s office said the money will go to organizations such as Food Banks Canada, The Salvation Army, Second Harvest, Community Food Centers Canada and Breakfast Club of Canada.

Premier of Quebec, François Legault, said the dispute shows that Canada must make its own protective equipment.

“We hope we will continue to receive orders from the United States, but we have to be realistic, it will be a tough battle. The countries that manufacture the equipment want to keep it for their own citizens, ”he said.

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He added that he had discussed the situation with other prime ministers and believes that provinces like Quebec and Ontario “must become self-sufficient.”

Earlier today, Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said on Twitter that his government would work with Quebec “to help northern communities respond to # COVID19. The federal government accepted this request. We will work together and get through it. “

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he will soon be able to give Canadians a better idea of ​​the impact COVID-19 will have on this country, but is not yet able to do so. The Canadian Press

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